About the chickens
The life of Madelaine's chickens – why the eggs taste so good.
From 24 hours old the fluffy chicks start their life with me at Hollyburton farm. They are kept warm and dry under heat lamps, with fresh water and delicious organic food to eat.
At fourteen days they venture out onto my green pastures in little mobile houses that are moved daily. These comfortable houses still have heat lamps and little perches so they can learn to fly and scratch. They spend the next four weeks in these portable houses eating green feed and growing fast and testing out their new feathers, which is lots of fun to watch.
For the next four weeks they are allowed to roam free around my family's lawns and exploring mum's flower garden. My dogs keep them safe from predators.
At 10 weeks of age they move into their adult chicken mobile homes. They get to use the perches and practice laying eggs in the nest boxes. They have lots of fun exploring their new 10 hectare paddock. At this age they get so excited to hear the sound of me come on the four wheeler, they run and jump with excitement to greet me.
My hens are certified organic with NASAA No. 3531. NASAA is a leading certifying body that makes sure farmers are ethical and looking after their land and animals strictly in the most environmentally sound way, using only organic methods. This guarantees that the customer is buying a truly organic product.
I would recommend anyone who wants to start organic farming to contact NASAA as they have some great advise on where and how to start.
About organic farming and truly free range, pasture raised chickens
Organic farming provides
long-term benefits to people and the environment.
- Organic farming aims to:
Increase long-term soil fertility.
Control pests and diseases without harming the environment.
Ensure that water sources stay clean and safe.
Use resources which the farmer already has, so the farmer needs less money to buy agricultural expenses.
Produce naturally nutritious food, feed for animals and high quality crops to sell at a good price.
Modern, industrial, intensive agricultural practices causes many problems, including the following:
Artificial fertilisers and herbicides are easily washed from the soil and pollute rivers, lakes and water courses. Only to build up dangerously in sediment areas.
The prolonged use of artificial fertilisers results in usually precious topsoils with a low organic matter content which is easily eroded by wind and rain, contributing to eventual desertification.
Due to a dependency on chemical fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and fungicides. Greater amounts are needed every year to produce the same yields of crops.
Facts about free-range, pasture fed and pasture raised eggs.
Most free-range and pasture fed farms buy their birds in at 15 weeks of age.This means they have been raised in cages or barns for the first 15 weeks of their life. And because they have been raised in a cage and or barn they often have their beaks trimmed. This makes it hard for the chickens to properly clean their feathers.
Cage/barn/free-range birds are fed 'conventional' feed, this means the grains that they eat have been farmed with fertilisers, pesticides, and could be GMO, plus the feed could have antibiotics and hormones added. This could come through in the eggs onto your plate.
Free-range farmers/ pasture fed farmers can have up to 10,000 birds per hectare and never have to move them off that ground! So just imagine the amount of faeces built up.
Also, did you know privacy is actually very important to a hens well being? Yet some farmers only provide their chickens with metal nest boxes with no nesting material and with no privacy?
Most farmers routinely add artificial colouring to the diet so the eggs are bright yellow; normally the natural colour comes healthily only from grass or flowers.
Madelaine started her business Madelaine's Eggs when she was eight years old back in 2002 as part of her home education curriculum. Her parents believed that being able to interact with all sorts of people and learning how to establish and run a business would be invaluable skills throughout life.
Now fifteen years later, 23 year old Madelaine Scott manages 3,000 certified organic laying hens on her family farm Hollyburton Park located in the Macedon Ranges of Victoria. Her chickens, and their eggs, are NASAA certified organic, which means the chicken must be free range, be fed certified organic feed - feed which has no added hormones, no antibiotics - and not be exposed to any artificial fertilisers or pesticides on the pasture or in the grains the chickens eat (even from surrounding farms). GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are also restricted entirely for organic standard compliance.
Due to the strict certification regulations and unlike most free range chooks or ‘barn laid’ chickens, Madelaine’s certified organic chicks must also be fed organic feed from the time that they are hatchlings. Madelaine must raise her chicks from 24 hours old, doing so in the Hollyburton orchards. As they grow, they are moved out into the grassy paddocks where they are put into a rotational grazing system for the next three years. They live peacefully in these paddocks with a herd of certified organic Murray Grey beef cattle as well as a family of Hollyburton-raised Marema dogs that protect the chickens from foxes, feral cats, snakes, hawks and other threats to their wellbeing.
Whilst living in the paddocks, the chickens sleep and lay eggs in insulated mobile chicken houses that Madelaine and her father Rob designed and built together. These ‘chook-mobiles’ are moved every second day to fresh pasture and which prevents any faeces build up in the chicken’s habitat. It also means that any poo the chickens release over night falls through a mesh floor onto the ground to help naturally fertilise the paddock.
The chook-mobiles have wooden perches and nest boxes with natural nesting materials so the chickens can make a cozy nest every day before laying her egg. The houses are fitted with a misting sprinkler system for the hot, summer days and big air vents that can be opened and closed depending on the forecast. The chickens can shelter from the weather if they choose but are otherwise able to be out in the elements all year around.
Madelaine’s stocks her chickens are 250 hens per hectare, well below the Australian standard of 10,000 hens per hectare for free range hens. Each hen is free to roam throughout their paddock, foraging a healthy banquet of bugs, grass, wild plant heads and leafy greens and dust bathing in the soft ground. Just as if they were in the wild.